Mennonite

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altThe Mennonite community in Belize is very visible; they represent for the most part an old-worldly presence amidst a very modern technological existence. Belizeans have come to regard the Mennonite community as a largely peaceful, self-sufficient society. The history of how the Mennonites came to be in Belize reveals a very transient existence, a journey that spans more than a hundred years, beginning in Europe and stretching across the sea to Canada and down through to Latin America. Mennonites are said to have adopted their name from a Dutch priest known as Menno Simons. The backbone of their lifestyle and the way they appear to others is a result of very firm, established religious beliefs that notably prevents them from indulging in some of the more "modern" practices that many Belizeans take for granted, such as utilizing electricity in their homes, or the use of motor vehicles. Mennonites are distinguished from other ethnic groups in Belize by a decidedly Anglo appearance. The hair is typically soft, sometimes wavy and ranging from blonde, to a light brown, or reddish brown.

The Mennonites first arrived in Belize in 1958, totaling 500, and was embraced by the government, who immediately saw that the Mennonites would bring with them their knowledge and propensity towards farming. In Belize, the Mennonite community can be distinguished by two vastly dissimilar sects - the Old Colony and the Kleine Gemeinde. The Old Colony Mennonites prefer to live in isolated, self-sufficient communities; they also eschew anything that represents modern innovation. The Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites however have slowly eased away from the practices of the Old Colony, and today can be seen driving tractors, and making use of modern amenities. Traditionally, the Mennonites have a very distinctive mode of dressing that for many today, appear very conservative. Both men and women tend to wear very modest apparel.

In the history of Belize - that shows a very dire reliance on imported goods, the contribution of the Mennonite community is clear. Belizeans today rely on the Mennonite community for a multitude of goods: rice, poultry, eggs, milk, and furniture. The majority of the Mennonite community continues to live in isolated, pocketed communities, far away from the urban areas. Despite this Belizeans have accepted the Mennonite community, and continue to support and respect their right to theological and societal freedom.
 

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